We maintain that Orestes Brownson (1803-1876) is the greatest
apologist for the Faith which this country has ever produced. No serious student of theology, or intelligent Catholic should
fail to read at least some of his essays, which appeared in the Brownson Review between the years 1845 and 1875. It can be
said in passing that Brownson left Protestantism, of which he had above average personal knowledge, without excuse. Here we
quote a few appropriate paragraphs at random, beseeching the reader to exert whatever effort he finds necessary to read more.
"We do not recollect one of these popular works which ever ventures to say, 'Out of the Church there is no salvation,' and
there stop, as does the Church Herself, as does our holy Father, Pius IX, in his encyclical letter: but all of them, whenever
they have occasion to introduce this dogma, are careful to accompany it with an explanation, which, in our age and country,
eviscerates it of all its Catholic significance for the people at large, whether within or without. Thus, in the second work
on our list, we read: 'We know that out of the Church there is no salvation; but many are they who, by want of opportunity
of learning the truth, innocently adhere to error, and thus are in spirit members of the Church.' Here the qualification to
the general reader negates the dogma and makes the assertion appear a mere rhetorical flourish. There are few people, not
versed in the distinction and subtleties of the schools, who in these latitudinarian times can read this qualification, expressed
here in its least exceptionable form, and not gather from it a meaning wholly repugnant to faith. The conclusion the author
draws, moreover, is not warranted by his premises. Undoubtedly men may innocently adhere to error, but it does not therefore
follow that they are in spirit members of the Church; for a man, though not in sin by reason of his error, may yet be in error
by reason of his sin. It may be, that, if he had complied with the graces given him, and which are given to all men, he would
have had the opportunity of being enlightened and brought to the knowledge of the truth. It is possible, then, that the reason
why a man is not an actual member of the Church is his own fault, not, indeed, that fault of not knowing what he had no opportunity
of learning, but of not complying with the graces given him and with which he was bound to comply, and we presume no one will
pretend that he is in spirit a member of the Church, who through his own fault is not an actual member.
We are, indeed,
authorized by our religion to judge no one individually, and we never have the right, without a special revelation, to say
of this or that man that he is eternally lost; but faith declares that out of the Church there is no salvation. We are all
commanded to hear the Church, and Almighty God gives to all the grace needed to obey His commands; and the presumption is,
therefore, always against all who live and die out of Her visible communion. Certainly no one will ever be condemned for not
doing what it was never in his power to do, or for not believing the truth he never had the opportunity of learning; but,
since the providence of God in this matter must count for something, and we are never at liberty to take the simple human
element alone, it is not easy to say precisely what is or is not the extent of the possibilities in the case. In no case is
the opportunity of learning the truth ever furnished except by the providence of God, and it costs Him nothing in furnishing
it whenever and wherever He sees that it will be accepted. You must suppose the man prepared in his interior disposition to
embrace the truth as soon as it is presented to him, or you cannot claim him as a virtual member of the church, but when you
have supposed the disposition, are you sure that you have the right to suppose the nonpossibility of the opportunity? If the
opportunity is withheld, can you say it is not withheld because there was no disposition to profit by it? Can you adduce a
case of a man having the disposition and dying without the opportunity? Such a men, you say, had no opportunity of hearing
of the church, and yet he had the disposition. How know you that he had the disposition? From his own statement, and the fact
that the missionary found him with it. The missionary found him, then? Then the opportunity was furnished, and your case is
not in point. But if the man had died before the missionary came. How know you, that supposing his good disposition to remain,
it was possible in the providence of God for him to die before the missionary came? It may be that God would not let him die
before, any more than he would holy Simeon before he had seen his salvation, and that he would not is presumable from the
fact that he did not. You say there are large numbers of schismatical and heretical communions who are not guilty of the sin
of schism or heresy. Be it so. But how know you that God will ever in his providence suffer any of these to die without an
opportunity of being formally reconciled to the Church, or that, if he suffers one to die in those communions, without such
opportunity, is it not because he is in mortal sin?
As Catholics, we know nothing of the fiction of an invisible church,
for which heretics in our day contend, and which is composed of the elect of all communions, the subterfuge to which they
were driven, when pressed to tell where their church was before Luther and Calvin. The Church which Catholics believe is a
visible kingdom, as much so as the kingdom of France or Great Britain, and when faith assures us that out of the Church there
is no salvation, the plain, obvious, natural sense of the dogma is, that those living and dying out of that visible kingdom
cannot be saved. This is the article of faith itself, what we are bound to believe under pain of mortal sin; it is what the
fathers taught. Habere non potest Deum patrem, says St. Cyprian, qui ecclesiam non habet matrem (He cannot have God for his
Father who does not have the Church for his Mother); and where this is concealed or explained away, as in the grand duchy
of Baden, for instance, faith becomes weak, charity languishing, and Catholicity hardly distinguishable from one of the sects."
ST. JOHN VIANNEY AND THE PROTESTANT
The Cure of Ars once gave a medal
to a Protestant who visited him, who exclaimed: "Dear sir, you have given a medal to one who is a heretic, at least I am a
heretic from your point of view. But although we are not of the same religion, I hope we shall both one day be in Heaven."
The holy priest took the gentleman's hand in his own, and giving him a look which seemed to reach his very soul, answered
him, "Alas! my friend, we cannot be together in Heaven, unless we have begun to live so in this world. Death makes no change
in that. As the tree falls so shall it lie. Jesus Christ has said, 'He that does not hear the Church, let him be to thee as
a heathen and a publican.' And He said again, 'There shall be one fold and one shepherd,' and He made St. Peter the chief
shepherd of His flock." Then, in a voice full of sweetness, he added, "My dear friend, there are not two ways of serving Jesus
Christ; there is only one good way, and that is to serve Him as He Himself wishes to be served." Saying this, the priest left
him. But these words sank deeply into the good man's heart, and led him to renounce the errors in which he had been brought
up, and he became a fervent Catholic.
THE DOGMA OF FAITH
"There is only one universal Church of the faithful, outside
of which no one at all can be saved." (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215)
"We declare, say, define,
and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
(Pope Boniface VIII, in the bull, Unam Sanctam, 1302)
"The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and teaches,
that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but Jews, heretics and schismatics, can ever be
partakers of eternal life, but are to go into the eternal fire 'prepared for the devil, and his angels' (Mt. 25:41)., unless
before the close of their lives they shall have entered into that Church; also that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is
such that the Church's sacraments avail only those abiding in that Church, and that fasts, almsdeeds, and other works of piety
which play their part in the Christian combat are in her alone productive of eternal rewards; moreover, that no one, no matter
what alms he may have given, not even if he were to shed his blood for Christ's sake, can be saved unless he abide in the
bosom and unity of the Catholic Church." (Mansi, Concilia, xxxi, 1739; Pope Eugene IV, in the bull, Cantate Domino, 1441).
The implications of these pronouncements, taken together, are as follows:
1. All three of these statements are
ex cathedra definitions of the Church and of the Pontiffs who made them. (Ex cathedra means that these are infallible teachings
of the Church which all persons must believe in order to be saved. These teachings are not subject to change as the popes
in making these declarations of faith were guided by the Holy Ghost, Who is unchangeable.)
2. Let the reader accept the
reasonable fact that the Pontiffs who pronounced these decrees were perfectly literate and fully cognizant of what they were
saying. If there were any need to soften or qualify their meanings, they were quite capable of doing so. They were not regarded
as heretics or fanatics at the time of their pronouncements, and have never been labeled such by the Church to this very day.
It is an easy thing for the people of this "enlightened" age to fall into the modern delusion that the men of former times,
especially those of the Middle Ages, were not as bright as we are, so that they sometimes said they know not what.
Since the aforementioned formula (Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus) is a doctrine of Catholicity, it is the standard of orthodoxy
on the subject of salvation; which is to say, all writers, whether they be saints and/or Doctors, of old or of late, all popes
and theologians, of whatever era, and their pronouncements are reliable in their treatment of this subject, if they accept
and support it. Their testimony or opinions are useless (at best), if they do not, this regardless of any other contribution
they may have made to Catholic erudition. The same must be said of the works of all Catholic writers.
4. Such a dogmatic
statement is not to be colored, or reduced, or altered, by reference to the Sacred Scriptures. On the contrary, it is in terms
of such a statement that all the Scriptures are to be read and understood.
5. The doctrine determines who has good will
and who has bad will. Those who have bad will are in the state of sin. In rejecting God's accredited word and work, they reveal
their true selves: They choose not to be among those of whom Christ spoke when he said: "I know mine, and mine know me." (Jn.
10:14). When it is responded that certain individuals do not know that what they are hearing is God's word, the reply is:
What is being said demands that careful inquiry be made. If the inquiry is made with the disposition of humility, integrity,
and courage, the inquirer will find that the word cannot be denied. No argument or evidence has ever been discovered which
will leave the honest man free of the revealed word's imperative.
6. It is important that the reader who thinks he disagrees
with the literal reading of these decrees not throw his hands up in indignation and put this paper aside. It should be obvious
that the reason Catholics regard heresy with such horror and alarm is this very doctrine. For if there is salvation outside
the Church, what difference does it make whether one is in the Church or out of It, whether one is a heretic in the judgment
of the Church or not? Really, if to deny this doctrine is not heresy, there is no such thing as heresy, and it would have
been pointless, as well as illogical, for the Church to attach such severe censures to the denial of this or any other doctrine.
7. This dogma rules out the possibility of simple invincible ignorance concerning the matter of salvation; those who die
in ignorance of the Church as the only course of salvific grace must be adjudged to have been culpably so. In a word, they
did not know because they did not want to know.
Quoted below are three worthy statements in support of this Dogma
of the Faith:
"It is a sin to believe that there is salvatin outside the Catholic Church."
- Venerable Pope Pius
"There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone who resists this truth perishes."
- St. Louis Maria
"We must believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church; hence they who are out of our Church
or they who are separated from it, cannot be saved."